Bayer Leverkusen’s 3-0 triumph over Fluminense kicked off the inaugural Florida Cup Thursday night in Orlando, before a pro-Brazilian crowd at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
The weather wasn’t exactly what the teams thought they had signed up for, as the Sunshine State offered a game-time temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit cooling as the match progressed and also bringing some light rain.
As expected from a team in the final 16 of Champions League and currently third in the Bundesliga, Leverkusen were able to take control early. Center backs Emir Spahic and Ömer Toprak were able to get away with playing a high line. Even though Fluminense packed the middle of the pitch, they were outmuscled to some extent by the double pivot of Lars Bender and Gonzalo Castro.
Fluzão had a couple of good chances, due to their willingness to commit men forward after winning the ball. With fan-favorite Fred not in the team, attacking midfielder Darío Conca had to find options beyond his usual target man. Walter, on loan from FC Porto, did well to hold the ball under pressure and won a free kick in the 38th minute. Conca whipped the ball in, but Stefan Kießing headed the clearance away for a corner.
Kießling’s heading ability also was what gave Bayer their lead, just a minute before halftime. Hakan Çalhanoglu’s in-swinging corner from the left side was met by the German forward, who was able to power a header past Fluminense keeper Diego Cavalieri.
The second half brought wholesale personnel changes for both sides, as well as a few bookings to go with the goals. Only Spahic remained on the pitch for the Werkself from the first half, but the Bosnian defender was substituted in the 73rd minute for Frey.
Spahic was booked in the 63rd minute, but the resulting free kick from just outside the area was slammed straight into the wall. Sebastian Boenisch and Benjamin Hendrichs went into the referee’s book in the 70th and 72nd minutes, respectively, for tackles in the middle of the park.
Bayer’s second goal came from a corner, with Vladen Yurchenko delivering the cross and captain Simon Rolfes the header in the 77th minute.
Just one minute later, Bayer struck again when Hendrichs picked out Josip Drmic in the middle of the area, and the Swiss international gave keeper Kléver no chance with a first time shot into the right side of the goal.
Next up for Leverkusen in Florida Cup action is Corinthians. The match will take place Saturday at Everbank Field in Jacksonville. Fluminense will face FC Köln in the Cup finale approximately 30 minutes after the end of the Leverkusen – Corinthians match.
Bayer 04: Leno (Yelldell 46’) – Hilbert (Donati 46’), Toprak (Boeder 46’), Spahic (Frey 73’), Wendell (Boenisch 46’) – Bender (Rolfes 46’), Castro (Reinartz 46’) – Bellarabi (Yurchenko 46’), Brandt (Henrichs 46’) – Calhanoglu (Drmic 46’), Kießling (Brasnic 46’).
Goals: 0-1 Kießling (43’), 0-2 Rolfes (77’), 0-3 Drmic (78’).